London good, Yorkshire bad

Last week, the Office for National Statistics released its estimates of economic growth across the regions and countries of the UK. Accompanying these stats was an infographic showing just how far London was outperforming the rest of the UK economically. Economic growth was higher, employment higher, the experience of the recession less severe. One interesting effect of these changes is that, in terms of unemployment, London now looks more like the rest of the country while the rest of the south and east looks less like so.

It’s important to remember that London still has high levels of poverty and unemployment. The most recent employment statistics show that, of all the regions and countries in the UK, only the North East and Yorkshire and the Humber have higher unemployment rates than London. This is actually a relative improvement for London compared to other parts of the country, as the graph shows.

The graph below shows the unemployment rates in different parts of the UK in 2002. The rates are for people resident in the region. This is important when we look at London, as it has a huge commuting radius, encompassing large parts of the south and east of England. The bars are ranked highest to lowest, and we see that London has, at 6.9%, the highest unemployment rate in the UK. Next highest was the North East, then Scotland and Northern Ireland. The South East, South West and East of England are at the other end of the scale, notably lower than everywhere else.

The graph is interactive – if you click on a year the bars will change to show the level for that year (the colour changes too but that’s just aesthetic). The order of the bars stays the same, though, so London is always on the far left, meaning we can compare how different regions have fared compared to each other over time.

Since the graph is interactive there are lots of different things to look at, but there’s two or three worth emphasising. Firstly, London had the highest unemployment rate of anywhere in the UK as recently as 2007. Since the recession, however, that unfortunate position is now held by the North East. Yorkshire and Humber is now second, which is especially striking given that it had a lower than average unemployment rate in 2002.

Secondly, while obviously every single part of the country has seen rises in unemployment, the rises in Scotland and Northern Ireland have been smaller than elsewhere. So much so, that unemployment is now lower in those countries than anywhere outside the south and east of England. This was not the case a decade ago. This change mainly occurred prior to the recession, between 2002 and 2007.

The unemployment rate fell almost everywhere between 2011 and 2012. The North East saw a fall of half a percentage point. That still means, though, that everywhere bar the south and east of England has a higher unemployment rate than the London did in 2002. In fact, the gap between the south and east and the rest of England and Wales (if not Scotland and NI) is greater now than a decade ago.

So London used to have the highest unemployment rate in the UK and now it looks much like the North and Midlands. The South East. South West and East of England always had the lowest unemployment rate and now look less like the North. Over the next few months, we will be working with the Trust for London to look more closely at these changes within the capital. If the changes of the last decade have been uneven across the country, have they been equally uneven across London?

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